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Role of Doctors in Nazis Racial Hygiene

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Role of Doctors in Nazis Racial Hygiene

Germany was out to establish a new utopian world order where everything worked in harmony. They wanted to become a healthy and vibrant organism of healthy Aryans. The German doctors were mobilized to create this new world. The German bureaucrats believed all their social burdens were brought on by the handicapped, incurables and homosexuals as well as the Jews and gypsies. The physicians were to use all their medical knowledge and scientific expertise in the treatment for their new world.

The doctors had been led to believe in a brave new world, a biological superstate and committed their heinous crimes in its name. They were on a slippery slope that began of genetic perfectibility and ended with German superiority. How could this have happened in a society revered for its sophisticated culture and technological advances?

The medical professionals of the early 20th century Weimar Republic were the best in the world. The Germans were pioneers in the areas of the medical field making technological strides and radical discoveries that significantly advanced the area of medicine. Aspiring medical scholars from the United States would routinely visit the University of Leipzig or the University of Berlin to study medicine in Germany and then go back to the United States to apply for study at Harvard. The medical pioneers also suffered from the effects of race, eugenics and euthanasia.

Germany's racial theories, often tainted with anti-Semitism, did not take place in a vacuum nor did they arise the moment the National Socialist Party took power. The work of many SS and Nazi doctors found support within the German medical community. This was especially true of those working in the field of eugenics or racial hygiene.

At the turn of the century social Darwinism offered the hope of designing a new society where the fittest would survive and the weakest eliminated. Sound health, productivity and achievement would be the norms of developing this society. The science of eugenics was designed to improve the human race by controlling hereditary factors. Eugenicists firmly believed that through their discipline violence, crime, feeble-mindedness, genetic disease and other genetic illnesses could be removed from society. This could be done by cleansing the population of inferior racial traits by artificial selection, especially through sterilization.

In the early part of the 20th century eugenics prospered in approximately 30 countries, notably America, England, Russia, Brazil, Mexico and Germany. It was driven by middle class notions that the government could reduce social spending by creating eugenic health policies. Just after the turn of the century, America became a cauldron of social upheaval. Rapid industrialism, urbanization and immigration helped make it a breeding ground for the eugenics movement. Charles B. Davenport was the founder for the Station for Experimental Evolution on Long Island in 1904. He later relied on funding from Mary Harriman, widow of the railroad magnate, as well as the Carnegie Foundation to create the eugenics record office. He believed that unless conditions changed for themselves or were forced to change, the United States will, because of the great influx of blood from Southeastern Europe, become rapidly darker in pigmentation, smaller in stature, more given to crimes of larceny, kidnapping, assault, murder, rape, and sex immorality. In the United States in the 1920s, at the height of the popularity of the Ku Klux Klan, concerns about immigration and hereditary illness were rampant. Eugenicist lobbied for government policies that would attack these issues especially through quotas and mandatory sterilization. It was this factor in American eugenics that the Germans praised and tried to emulate.

At this time, Americans admired the German research in the field of eugenics. It was Davenport, who was now president of the International Federation of Eugenic Organizations, who strongly supported the German eugenicists after the tensions of World War I. America also gave its support financially to the German movement. The Rockefeller Foundation funded the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Eugenics, and Human Genetics in Berlin. Its support of the institute continued even after the National Socialist Party took power. The institutes many projects on race variation by blood groups and twin studies would eventually lead to one of the most serious ethical violations in the history of medicine.

In 1934, a Eugenics exhibit, titled "The New Germany," drew thousands of visitors in Pasadena, California. In 1938, Harry H. Laughlin, a strong proponent of eugenics and assistant director of the Cold Spring Harbor labs, promoted Nazi Eugenics in the United States. With zeal he distributed the Nazi propaganda film, "The Genetically Diseased," to countless American schools, churches and clubs. Americans learned form this film that certain elements of the population, including Jews, are nothing more than social examples of moral deviancy and mental retardation. Prior to World War II the German and American connection in Eugenics was firmly established.

In 1933, when the National Socialists Party took power in Germany, the doctors and scientists were ready and willing to offer their assistance in creating the new order. The German eugenicists began to put into practice in the social and political spheres that their American and British colleagues had only theorized. This was especially true concerning racial impurity and sterilization.

Germany was soon considered a kind of "biocracy", a living body that had to be healed. National Socialism, an ever growing bureaucracy, became a type of applied biology with Hitler as the great doctor of the German people. The Fuhrer envisioned that step by step the doctors and nurses, as well as lawyers, teachers and soldiers would all fall into ranks to make the fatherland healthy. Pure blooded Germans would pass on their genetic legacy to the thousand years Reich.

In "Mien Kampf" written by Hitler a decade earlier, he had already publicized his belief of racial superiority. For him the Jews, Slavs, and Africans were inferior races. Science, law, and politics would soon join forces to legislate against the Jews. Established Jewish doctors and other professionals were caught in the trap even before the Nuremberg laws of 1935. For racial and often economic reasons, the Jewish doctors were gradually barred from the medical system. This made room for the many other German doctors struggling throughout the depression. In March and April of 1933, Jewish and Socialist physicians were purged from state institutions of public health. Young aspiring doctors



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